'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' opens Feb. 2 at Bemidji Community Theater
Performances are at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2-4 and 9-11, and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 5 and 12. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for children at Iverson Drug, McKenzie Place and Ken K. Thompson.
BEMIDJI — As if the challenge of directing the intense “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” wasn’t enough, Derrick Houle has also had to step in as one of the play's lead characters.
The Bemidji Community Theater production opens an eight-day run on Thursday, Feb. 2, at the BCT’s Performing Arts Center, 316 Beltrami Ave. NW.
“In my own experience, comedies are probably the hardest to direct because there’s so much timing involved,” Houle said. “There’s a rhythm that you’ve got to find.”
Although “Cuckoo’s Nest” is not a comedy, the stage version requires precise timing. That’s because its scenes are not broken up into segments like most plays. Instead, the Chief Bromden character, portrayed by Joseph Boudreau, also serves as narrator with a monologue throughout, and characters remain on stage.
Houle is one of those characters himself. He plays Randall P. McMurphy, a role made famous in the film version by Jack Nicholson.
“I’m in it, but not by choice,” Houle explained. His first choice for the role was too busy. His second choice was a late dropout.
So, Houle, a regular BCT cast member, stepped in with only a few weeks to prepare. He had directed and acted in the same play once before in 2015 when BCT put on “Stalag 17.” But it was a much smaller role on stage, “not to this degree,” he said.
The scenes in “Cuckoo’s Nest” are introduced as Chief Bromden does his monologue.
“You have to find a rhythm in the scene changes,” Houle said, “like how to stay in character while you’re still on stage while he’s doing his monologue and yet at the same time not taking away from the monologue. I’ve found it difficult in that way. In that way, it’s kind of like a comedy, but it’s a black comedy.”
Houle’s character is a rebel who thinks serving his time in a mental institution would be easier than in prison. However, he didn't realize that the "warden" of this institution (Nurse Ratched, played by Ann Marie Newman) was even harder than most prisons. As McMurphy contends with the head nurse, the audience will see first-hand the damage that is left behind as they both vie for power.
“Ann Marie does a fantastic job,” Houle said. “Her facial expressions, her stare, her edginess and yet kind of an nth degree of Minnesota Niceness, that passive aggressiveness, she does that very well.”
The cast features a mix of BCT regulars and several newcomers. It includes Jaxson Anderson as Billy, Justin Beldo as Aide Williams, Katie Carpenter as Sandy, Mark Claussen as Dr. Spivey, Andrew Dziengel as Scanlon, LaDon Howes as Aide Turkle, Dallas Jennings as Martini, Shayley Jordan as Candy, Steven Mayer as Cheswick, Dave Moffett as Harding, Aubourn Nelson as Aide Warren, Kate Probst as Nurse Flinn and Ernie Rall as Ruckley.
“I think the audience will enjoy it, and at the same time maybe be a little disturbed,” Houle said. “It makes us think about how we treat people and maybe how we should treat people.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2-4 and 9-11, and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 5 and 12. Tickets may be purchased at Iverson Corner Drug, McKenzie Place and Ken K. Thompson Jewelry. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $6 for children.
For the first time, limited concierge seating including a beverage and snack will be available for $25.
The play is recommended for mature audiences.